If you traveled to St. John Fisher College on Friday afternoon to get your first glimpse of the 2009 Buffalo Bills and their biggest stars, you likely left Growney Stadium sorely disappointed. After nearly a full week of practice, select veterans were padless spectators; QB Trent Edwards, WR Lee Evans, WR Terrell Owens and CB Terrence McGee were all "healthy scratches," for lack of a better term.
Even with some of the big names resting, there were some interesting notes we jotted down that are worth mentioning - mostly to do with lineup shifting. Our day seven recap is after the jump.
Keeping track of the O-Line
Not an awful lot to report here. Most of the veterans saw lighter workloads, so some of the Bills' younger players were able to get more significant reps. Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, for example, saw an increased amount of reps with the first unit offensive line at right and left guard, respectively. Demetrius Bell also took reps with the first team at right tackle.
We don't suggest reading too much into Bell's apparent ascent up the depth chart, but it's worth noting. The guy gets better and better every day. The Bills may have serious questions along the line, but don't be surprised if Bell answers one of those questions sooner rather than later.
The Bills once again worked on some screen plays, and Eric Wood was asked to be out in front as a lead blocker. As our de facto camp reporter, MattRichWarren, aptly put it, that's a scary proposition for a defensive back.
More Wildcat action
For what we believe was the first time, the Bills worked out of a Wildcat offensive set that featured all three of the team's capable running backs on the field at the same time - Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes. Jackson was the "quarterback" in those situations. When Rhodes was signed earlier this off-season, we openly wondered how the team would keep him happy with his touches once Lynch returned to the lineup. This may be a (small) part of the answer.
With so much emphasis on situational work and on looking at younger, less proven players, it was a pretty uneventful practice. Rather than bore you with the "Ashlee Palmer tipped a pass" updates, we focused more on where players were lining up.
Obviously, Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in for Edwards with the first unit offense. Peter King's claim that Fitzpatrick has a cannon for an arm is confirmed; he doesn't throw a great ball, but when one flies right, it flies for a while. He had a better day than he normally does. The same can be said for Gibran Hamdan, who took Fitzpatrick's usual spot.
With Owens and Evans on the sideline (along with Steve Johnson and James Hardy), Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish were the first-team receivers. Reed recorded a pretty touchdown reception on the day. Derek Schouman also had a nice touchdown catch in traffic.
Ryan Denney filled in for Aaron Schobel with the first unit defensive ends; color us disappointed - it would have been quite intriguing indeed to see Chris Ellis get a few snaps there. Ellis worked with Jermaine McGhee - the only other end healthy on the day - with the second unit.
At linebacker, the second unit was once again shaken up. Marcus Buggs held down the fort at middle linebacker, with Ashlee Palmer on the weak side and Nic Harris on the strong side. Pat Thomas, Alvin Bowen and Jon Corto were the third-unit 'backers. Nowhere else on the team is competition more wide open than at linebacker behind the starting trio of Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison. Pick any three names, and we will show you an utter lack of surprise if they make the team.
Cary Harris update
Much has been made about the success that seventh-round pick Ellis Lankster has had early in his first NFL training camp. Another corner was selected a round prior to Lankster, and he comes with a USC pedigree - Cary Harris. Noting that we'd heard virtually nothing about him up until today, we watched dejectedly as street free agent receiver Shaine Smith torched Harris for a scoring play in 7-on-7 work. Harris is one of the last corners to rotate through in every drill. His chances of making the roster are virtually naught, though it's likely that if he doesn't, he'll be stashed on the practice squad.
Joining the resting veterans on the sidelines were WR Steve Johnson, WR James Hardy, TE Shawn Nelson, DE Copeland Bryan, DT John McCargo, DT Marcus Smith, DT Ventrell Jenkins and DB Dustin Fox. WR C.J. Hawthorne was elevated from the Active PUP and practiced for the first time today.
The Bills have a morning practice on Saturday; the practice starts at 10 AM. Once it's completed, the Bills will have a long weekend, as they have Sunday off. Then "preparations" begin for next weekend's opening pre-season game, the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio against the Tennessee Titans.